The Effects of Environmental Factors on Evolution and the Conservation of Biodiversity in Lake Tanganyika

Title

The Effects of Environmental Factors on Evolution and the Conservation of Biodiversity in Lake Tanganyika

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Research Question

How does the evolutionary history of Lates fishes in Lake Tanganyika correspond to environmental change throughout the history of the lake?

Award

CGS International Internship/Fieldwork Grant

Significance

Africa's Lake Tanganyika is an exemplary study system for investigating the effects of environmental factors on evolution and the conservation of biodiversity. One of Lake Tanganyika’s many evolutionary radiations is the four-species group of Lates fishes (Lates stappersii, L. mariae, L. microlepis, L. angustifrons; Fig. 1), top predators in the lake’s pelagic zone that have undergone population declines in recent years due to environmental and anthropogenic factors. As the lake’s top pelagic predators, the Lates species are key components of Lake Tanganyika’s ecosystem, yet little is known about their evolutionary history. For my dissertation, I plan to link genomic studies of the histories of these fishes to data from sediment cores and seismography that document environmental changes over Lake Tanganyika’s millions-year history, using these fish to understand relationships between population dynamics and environmental change over deep timescales, and how these influence species diversification and ecological change.

Methods Used

My first steps for this project will involve four weeks of fieldwork near Kigoma, Tanzania. I will expand our collection of Lates specimens, both in sample size and geographic origins, in the first targeted sampling of these species by our research group. I will travel to Kigoma for four weeks to catch fish with the help of experienced local fishermen and the Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI). Talking to fishermen and fishmongers at local markets will be secondary methods of obtaining tissue samples for the population-level genomic work in my project.

Conclusions/Outcomes

This fieldwork will enable my genomic study of the current population structure, current effective population size, and historical population sizes of these fish, and will lay the groundwork for my PhD research on the evolutionary history of these fishes and of the pelagic community in Lake Tanganyika.

Publication Date

2017

Department

Plant Science

Disciplines

Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

The Effects of Environmental Factors on Evolution and the Conservation of Biodiversity in Lake Tanganyika

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